We still don’t know when exactly the remodeled Hotel Clermont—which has been shuttered for nearly a decade—will open to the public but we’ve finally had a peek inside the brand new rooms. Earlier this month, the hotel quietly offered tours to what appeared to be a steady stream of hipster millennials. I’m not either of those, but I fortuitously happened to be driving by when I saw a group of sight-seers heading through the front door. One U-turn in the middle of Ponce later and I was inside the lobby, eager to begin my tour and shelling out my donation to whatever lucky charity would receive the proceeds.
But that’s not what you want to know. You want to know what the Clermont looks and, perhaps more importantly, feels like. Even though most Atlantans have never actually seen the interior of the hotel, nor stayed there during what we’ll charitably call its heyday (I did, but that’s a story for another time), there has been a steady boil of anticipation for the Clermont to reopen its doors. Would it live up to expectations? Would it prove a worthy companion to the beloved strip club in its basement? Would it have the right, well, attitude?
Rest assured, based on what I saw, it looks pretty great and occupies the sweet spot for those who want a playfully retro atmosphere but not at the expense of creature comforts. The lobby offers the first clues, with items for sale—flasks, skinny ties, Clermont-branded trucker caps—that function both as tangible metaphors for the self-conscious irony that suffuses the property and as objects the target demographic might actually want to buy.
A few steps away is an elevator that takes you to a rooftop bar. The space itself is fairly generic, with a cabana-style covered bar and lounge chairs on an Astroturf surface, but at night with the radio-tower sign gleaming neon red just overhead, it’s undoubtedly more impressive.
As for the guest rooms themselves, they offer a good mix of style and luxury as befits an upscale boutique hotel. All the furniture appears to be vintage and mostly mid-century, except for the gorgeous claw-foot tubs in some rooms. And although the beds and dressers don’t necessarily match, the furnishings are all quite tasteful and handsomely restored. A representative told me all five floors had been gutted during the rehab and I believe it; the once-cramped guest rooms have been transformed into airy spaces where the once tiny bathrooms are now surprisingly roomy.
Before I’d visited, I hadn’t realized just how upscale the Clermont’s new owner, Nashville-based Oliver Hospitality, was aiming. A standard one-bed room starts at $199, while a room with twin bunk beds—for those with kids—can top $300. That places the Clermont in the same heady company as downtown’s Ritz-Carlton and Midtown’s Loews, and a notch above fellow boutiques the Glenn and Ellis.
The downstairs lobby bar, with its covetable bar carts, banquette seating and low lighting, appears to be going for a similar feel as Reynoldstown’s Golden Eagle. Down a few steps is Tiny Lou’s, the hotel’s French-American brasserie, which was busy with staff training so I was able only to peer from the stairs. At first glance, it looked casually classy.
The hotel clearly aims to maintain a certain nonthreatening edginess, from a decor its PR team describes as “rock-n’-roll-meets-grandma’s-living-room” to its retro graphics to a range of guest packages that can include expedited entry to the Clermont Lounge, tickets to the Plaza Theatre, and drink vouchers for a BeltLine pub crawl.
In short, the overhauled Clermont is something fairly new to Atlanta. We’ve got a few hotel chains that shoot for a hipper clientele, like the AC Hotel at Lenox Square and various Hotel Indigos and Ws. But this is our first genuinely eccentric upscale boutique hotel, like the mid-century-themed Dwell Hotel in Chattanooga, the museum-themed 21C hotels around the country, or any of the Ace Hotels.
After nearly a decade of driving past a sadly shuttered Clermont, I’d say Oliver has done a creditable job with the revamp, creating a welcome addition to the city’s hospitality scene. But when the hotel or its restaurant will open remains a question mark. General manager Alan Rae told me perhaps by the end of May. Or maybe in June.
C’mon guys, it’s time for you to hit the stage.